Bassist Sam Jones, one of the unsung rhythm section heroes in jazz, leads a stellar ensemble on this 1978 Muse session, now reissued by 32 Jazz. The music is burning, the sound is vibrant and huge. But this kind of record was destined to fall through the cracks. Recorded at the height of the fusion era, with the Marsalis-led neotraditionalist resurgence still years away, the album was decidedly not of its time. With its roster of hard bop heavyweights — pianist Cedar Walton, trombonist Slide Hampton, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, drummer Billy Higgins, and tenor saxophonist Bob Berg, an upstart at the time of this recording — Something In Common would have fit more comfortably into the jazz zeitgeist that existed ten years earlier or more.
All the more reason to admire Sam Jones, who tenaciously did his thing and came up with a real hidden treasure. The leader’s epic "Seven Minds," which begins and ends with rich, unaccompanied bass, is alone worth the price of the reissue. But there are also sparkling versions of Walton’s "Bolivia" and "Something In Common," Hampton’s "Every Man Is a King," and Mitchell’s "Blue Silver," as well as a tender reading of "For All We Know."
As a bonus, there are three extra tracks drawn from Cedar Walton’s 1976 live album Firm Roots, featuring Walton on piano and Rhodes, Jones on bass, and Jones’s longtime rhythm section partner Louis Hayes on drums. Unfortunately, the recording quality pales in comparison to that of Something In Common. It also seems a bit odd to include Walton-led material on a Sam Jones CD. As for the tunes, we could have gotten by without the trio’s plodding version of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," although Walton’s "Shoulders" and Jones’s fast blues "One for Amos" have their rewards.
By digging into the vaults and rescuing Something In Common from the late 70s commercial slump that once doomed it, 32 Jazz does Sam Jones and all jazz lovers a service. It’s important to remember that before the current jazz "renaissance," these legends remained very active and were playing better than ever, even if few were paying attention.
Seven Minds; Bolivia; Something In Common; Every Man Is A King; For All We Know; Blue Silver; Shoulders; One For Amos; You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.
Sam Jones--bass; Cedar Walton--piano; Slide Hampton--trombone; Blue Mitchell--trumpet; Bob Berg--tenor saxophone; Billy Higgins--drums; Louis Hayes--drums.
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